Rustic Romance at a Destination Wedding in California

Alison and Ben

Sabine Scherer Photography

Californians Alison and Ben met just in the nick of time -- their last semester of college. After graduation, she moved to New York, and he followed soon after. On a trip back to the Bay Area, in September 2010, Ben popped the question.

Alison, a style editor, and Ben, a medical resident, moved back west to San Francisco after many years in The Big Apple, and wed the following year, on June 4, 2011, in the beautiful coastal town of Sea Ranch. Their fete accentuated the natural beauty of the destination -- with a palette inspired by colors the couple had seen hiking its many trails: sage green, gray, and slate blue.

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The Location

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Sea Ranch Lodge holds special significance for Ben; as a child, he and his family vacationed in the coastal town. "Its quiet rugged coastline, artfully twisted tree trunks, and weatherworn gray fences, really guided our wedding's aesthetic."

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The Welcome Boxes

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Spiced nuts made by Ben's mom, brownies baked by the groom, and a hand-drawn map by a bridesmaid highlighting the pair's favorite local spots were packed in a Kraft-paper box tied with twine. A welcome note from the mother-of-the-bride topped each one.

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A Special Surprise

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The welcome box also contained a custom-made cookbook featuring 20 of the foodie couple's favorite recipes along with notes explaining each dish's significance. The mini tome, titled "How to Dice an Onion and other recipes", was wrapped in wax paper and bound with Japanese yarn from Habu Textiles.

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The First Look

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Photographer Sabine Scherer snapped pictures of Alison and Ben by the barn before the ceremony and again after the service.

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The Fashions

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The groom sported a three-piece "Ludlow" suit from J.Crew, a Brooks Brothers shirt, Faconnable tie, and Kenneth Cole shoes.

Alison beamed in her "Farrah" Vera Wang gown, Jamie Wolf engagement ring and earrings (something borrowed and blue), and Badgley Mischka "Lyndee" wedges.

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A Sweet Memento

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To honor her late father and grandmother, Alison carried her dad's handkerchief during the ceremony and attached a locket that had belonged to her grandma to the ribbon wrapped around her bouquet.

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The Boutonnieres

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Studio Choo presented the small bunches of miniature succulents, air plants, roses, berries, and wildflowers, to the guys on a moss-covered tray.

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The Bridesmaids

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Alison's girls wore chiffon Amsale gowns in the style of their choosing.

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An Entrance With A View

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The groom and his parents entered the ceremony to an acoustic guitar rendition of "Blackbird" by the Beatles.

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The Ceremony

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The rainy weather cleared up just in time for the bride and her mother's entrance to "Songbird" by Eva Cassidy.

Ben's best friend, Peter, officiated the late-afternoon ceremony and the bride's sister recited "An Anniversary Blessing" by Welleran Poltarnees. The couple exchanged vows they wrote themselves, and Jamie Wolf wedding bands. Alison also shared a tender note she wrote for her late father.

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The Toss

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Muslin bags rubber-stamped with the couple's monogram (designed by Mr. Boddington's Studio) were filled with loose lavender. Guests tossed the fragrant buds as the couple walked by at the ceremony's conclusion.

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The Recessional

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The newlyweds walked up the aisle to "Here Comes the Sun" by The Beatles.

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Rosemary for Remembrance

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To keep the memories of those who couldn't attend fresh, Alison potted a rosemary tree and strung its branches with the names of those absent. The tags were beautifully calligraphed by Bryn Chertoff of Paperfinger.

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Cocktail Hour

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The signature drink of the night: vodka gimlets. It's Alison's favorite libation.

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Added Flair

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The couple's monogram festooned the cocktail napkins.

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A Fun Keepsake

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A large hurricane vase from IKEA was displayed with stacks of rubber-stamped cards for guests to write their well wishes on. "We wanted to do something that would be easy for guests to do on the way to the reception," Alison says. Stones from the nearby beach weighted down the cards.

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The Scenery

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The newlyweds honored their long-standing ritual of watching the sunset in Sea Ranch. Even a few guests joined in.

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The Tables

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Arrangements of honeysuckle, peonies, anemones, sweet peas, garden roses, herbs, summer wildflowers, air plants, and succulents in pots by Ben Wolff dotted the long farm tables. The wedding date was stamped into the clay of each vessel. Smaller "handpicked" centerpieces were placed in Weck jars alongside.

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The Table Numbers

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Simple and sophisticated ruled the day, as exemplified by these calligraphed digits.

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The Decor

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This wreath of branches, air plants, succulents, vines, and fresh blooms was originally created to adorn the barn that served as the backdrop for the ceremony. When it began raining that morning, all decorations were moved to the tent. Then when the skies cleared an hour before the service, the team put everything back outside. But the decorative piece, which had been hung in the tent already, stayed put. "Because it stayed in the tent we got to enjoy that phenomenal the whole night," Alison says.

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Small Details

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A last-minute decision to decorate the back of their chairs with airplants a festive fuss-free touch.

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The Lighting

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Groupings of glowing lanterns hung from the tent's center pole.

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The Menu

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The fare was kept seasonal and local. The Sea Ranch Lodge prepared menu began with spring pea crostini with pea tendrils, ricotta salata, and lemon, followed by a salad of mixed lettuces, shaved market vegetables, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and walnuts, topped with Champagne vinaigrette. For the main course, guests chose between a grilled rib eye with salsa verde, braised swiss chard, and Rancho Gordo white runner beans; grilled halibut with salsa verde, asparagus, and lemon-scented couscous; or roasted bell pepper stuffed with braised swiss chard, lemon-scented couscous, and lemon vinaigrette.

The menu card, designed by the couple, was inspired by those used at Chez Panisse, and doubled as a place card. A custom rubber stamp of the venue's barn finished each one off.

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The Cake

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Inspired by a buttermilk confection the duo tried at One Girl Cookies in Brooklyn, New York, Ben, a formally trained chef, attempted a similar recipe. He worked baker Jennifer Arana of Let Them Eat Cake, in Gualala, California, to make their all-white cake with cream cheese buttercream and plum preserves.

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The First Dance

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The couple took to the floor to "Hold You In My Arms" by Ray LaMontagne.

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Sabine Scherer Photography

Photography: Sabine Scherer Photography

Location and Catering: Sea Ranch Lodge

Stationery: Mr. Boddington's Studio

Calligraphy: Paperfinger

Florist: Studio Choo

Rentals: Zephyr Tents; Wine Country Party & Events

Day-of Wedding Coordination: Jeanne O'Reilly of Stepping Inn

Cake: Let Them Eat Cake (707-884-1227)

Makeup: Tammy Son

Music: Q Morrow of Ever Music Group (acoustic guitar); Mike Lewis of Feet First Entertainment (dj)

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